By Andrew M. Ollis
| April 22, 2014
In MRC Innovations, Inc. v. Hunter Mfg., LLP, No. 2013-1433 (Fed. Cir., Apr. 2, 2014), the Federal Circuit addressed the obviousness of patents covering ornamental designs for dog jerseys.  In doing so, the analysis raises questions about whether the Federal Circuit has fully moved beyond the at times dismissive approach to design patents that has characterized some of its decisions in years past.

The Decision


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By Colin Harris
| April 15, 2014
Celia Murphy, Supervisory Patent Examiner for technology Center 2900 (‘TC 2900’) was the host for Design Day 2014, the 8th Annual Design Day.  Design Day 2014 appeared to have a significant increase in participants as the USPTO Madison Auditorium had only a few empty seats throughout the day.

Andy Faile, Deputy Commission for Patent Operations started the day off by highlighting two initiatives by the USPTO: interview practice, and a technical training program. Mr. Faile noted that a growing number of interviews were being conducted, benefiting examiners and practitioners alike, and that the number of requests for WebEx interviews was also increasing.


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By Patrick Miller
| April 15, 2014
On April 8, 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted its 8th annual Design Day.  The schedule included Jihoon Kim, Ph.D., Deputy Director Design Examination Policy Division, Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), who presented on the topic of recent changes in GUI design application protection at KIPO.

Of particular note, for design patent applications involving Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), KIPO no longer requires specific indication of an underlying hardware product.  For example, prior to the change, a design application directed to protection for a GUI design required the GUI design to be shown with an underlying hardware product, such as a cellular telephone.  According to Dr. Kim, KIPO enacted the change to focus on the “heart and soul” of the GUI design and to minimize useless and possibly unduly limiting hardware visualization and description.


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By Philippe Signore
| April 3, 2014
About 12 years ago, in 2002, I co-authored an article entitled “U.S. Design Patents: an underdog that bites.” The article announced a coming-out stage for design patents:

Companies often seek broad protection for their products and technology, along with strong enforcement provisions, preferably available at a relatively low cost and via a relatively fast procedure. In the past, however, companies have often overlooked a tool that can provide such protection: the US design patent. Instead, companies have focused on trade dress protection and utility patents. In many companies, the trade mark department considered design patents to add little to trade dress protection, while the patent department considered them an inadequate tool to protect their functional inventions. As a result, design patents often fell through the cracks.


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By Philippe Signore
| March 31, 2014
As previously reported, the USPTO published on February 6, 2014, a Request for Comments on the Written Description Requirements for Design Applications.  The Request followed a heated discussion during Design Day 2013 when USPTO Design Practice Specialist, Mr. Joel Sincavage gave specific examples illustrating an original design claim and an amended design claim where, in the amended claim, only a subset of elements of the original disclosure were shown using solid lines.

The USPTO seemed to take the position that, in these “rare situations,” the inventor may not have had possession of the newly claimed design because the claimed subset of elements was “seemingly unrelated” to the original design.  Some members of the public attending Design Day raised concerns regarding the Office’s position. 


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